The Beatles (album)

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The Beatles
TheBeatles68LP.jpg
Original copies had the band's name blind embossed on a white background and were also numbered. Design by Richard Hamilton.
Studio album by
Released22 November 1968
Recorded30 May –14 October 1968
Studio EMI Studios and Trident Studios, London
Genre
Length93:33
Label Apple
Producer George Martin
The Beatles chronology
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)
The Beatles
(1968)
Yellow Submarine
(1969)
The Beatles North American chronology
Magical Mystery Tour
(1967)
The Beatles
(1968)
Yellow Submarine
(1969)

The Beatles, also known as "The White Album", is the ninth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles, released on 22 November 1968. A double album, its plain white sleeve has no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed, [lower-alpha 1] which was intended as a direct contrast to the vivid cover artwork of the band's previous LP Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band . Although no singles were issued from The Beatles in Britain and the United States, the songs "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" originated from the same recording sessions and were issued on a single in August 1968. The album's songs range in style from British blues and ska to pastiches of Chuck Berry and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The Beatles English rock band

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became regarded as the foremost and most influential music band in history. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to pop music's evolution into an art form and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. They often incorporated classical elements, older pop forms and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and later experimented with several musical styles ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As the members continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they were seen as an embodiment of the era's sociocultural movements.

A double album is an audio album which spans two units of the primary medium in which it is sold, typically records and compact disc. A double album is usually, though not always, released as such because the recording is longer than the capacity of the medium. Recording artists often think of double albums as comprising a single piece artistically; however, there are exceptions such as John Lennon's Some Time in New York City and Pink Floyd's Ummagumma and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Another example of this approach is Works Volume 1 by Emerson Lake and Palmer, where side one featured Keith Emerson, side two Greg Lake, side three Carl Palmer, and side four was by the entire group.

Paper embossing stamping process for producing sunken designs in paper or card stock

Embossing and debossing are the processes of creating either raised or recessed relief images and designs in paper and other materials. An embossed pattern is raised against the background, while a debossed pattern is sunken into the surface of the material.

Contents

Most of the songs on the album were written during March and April 1968 at a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India. The group returned to EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London at the end of May to commence recording sessions that lasted through to mid-October. During these sessions, arguments broke out among the foursome over creative differences. Another divisive element was the constant presence of John Lennon's new partner, Yoko Ono, whose attendance in the studio broke with the Beatles' policy regarding wives and girlfriends not attending recording sessions. After a series of problems, including producer George Martin taking a sudden leave of absence and engineer Geoff Emerick suddenly quitting, Ringo Starr left the band briefly in August. The same tensions continued throughout the following year, leading to the break-up of the band by 1970.

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation (TM) refers to a specific form of silent mantra meditation called the Transcendental Meditation technique, and less commonly to the organizations that constitute the Transcendental Meditation movement. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the TM technique and TM movement in India in the mid-1950s.

Rishikesh City in Uttarakhand, India

Rishikesh, also known as Hrishikesh is a city, municipal corporation and a tehsil in Dehradun district of the Indian state Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as the 'Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas' and 'Yoga Capital of the World'. It lies approximately 25 km (16 mi) north of the city Haridwar and 43 km (27 mi) southeast of the state capital Dehradun. According to Census of India, 2011 Rishikesh had a population of 102,138 making it the seventh most populated city in the state of Uttarakhand. It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge.

EMI British music recording and publishing company

EMI Group Limited was a British Transnational conglomerate founded in March 1931 in London. At the time of its break-up in 2012, it was the fourth largest business group and record label conglomerate in the music industry, and was one of the big four record companies ; its labels included EMI Records, Parlophone, Virgin Records, and Capitol Records, which are now owned by other companies.

On release, The Beatles received favourable reviews from the majority of music critics, but other commentators found its satirical songs unimportant and apolitical amid the turbulent political and social climate of 1968. The band and Martin later debated whether the group should have released a single album instead. Nonetheless, The Beatles reached No. 1 on the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and has since been viewed by some critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.

Music criticism

The Oxford Companion to Music defines music criticism as 'the intellectual activity of formulating judgements on the value and degree of excellence of individual works of music, or whole groups or genres'. In this sense, it is a branch of musical aesthetics. With the concurrent expansion of interest in music and information media over the past century, the term has come to acquire the conventional meaning of journalistic reporting on musical performances.

Background

By 1968, the Beatles had achieved commercial and critical success. The group's mid-1967 release, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band , was number one in the UK for 27 weeks, through to the start of February 1968, [1] having sold 250,000 copies in the first week after release. [2] Time magazine declared that Sgt. Pepper's constituted a "historic departure in the progress of music – any music", [3] while the American writer Timothy Leary wrote that the band were "the wisest, holiest, most effective avatars (Divine Incarnate, God Agents) that the human race has ever produced". [4] The band received a negative critical response to their television film Magical Mystery Tour , which aired in Britain in December 1967, but fan reaction was nevertheless positive. [5]

<i>Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band</i> 1967 studio album by The Beatles

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on 26 May 1967 in the United Kingdom and 2 June 1967 in the United States, it spent 27 weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in production, songwriting and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for providing a musical representation of its generation and the contemporary counterculture. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honour.

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

Timothy Leary American psychologist

Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer known for advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions.

The songs that appear on The Beatles were demoed at George Harrison's home, Kinfauns, in May 1968. Kinfauns George Harrison house.jpg
The songs that appear on The Beatles were demoed at George Harrison's home, Kinfauns, in May 1968.

Most of the songs for The Beatles were written during a Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India, between February and April 1968. [6] [7] The retreat involved long periods of meditation, conceived by the band as a spiritual respite from all worldly endeavours – a chance, in John Lennon's words, to "get away from everything". [8] Both Lennon and Paul McCartney quickly re-engaged themselves in songwriting, often meeting "clandestinely in the afternoons in each other's rooms" to review their new work. [9] "Regardless of what I was supposed to be doing," Lennon later recalled, "I did write some of my best songs there." [10] Author Ian MacDonald said Sgt Pepper was "shaped by LSD", [11] but the Beatles took no drugs with them to India aside from marijuana, and their clear minds helped the group with their songwriting. [12] The stay in Rishikesh proved especially fruitful for George Harrison as a songwriter, coinciding with his re-engagement with the guitar after two years studying the sitar. [13] The musicologist Walter Everett likens Harrison's development as a composer in 1968 to that of Lennon and McCartney five years before, although he notes that Harrison became "privately prolific", given his customary junior status in the group. [14]

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Inventor of Transcendental Meditation, musician

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an Indian guru, known for developing the Transcendental Meditation technique and for being the leader and guru of a worldwide organization that has been characterized in multiple ways including as a new religious movement and as non-religious. He became known as Maharishi and Yogi as an adult.

John Lennon English singer and songwriter, founding member of The Beatles

John Winston Ono Lennon was an English singer, songwriter, and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He and fellow member Paul McCartney formed a much-celebrated songwriting partnership. Along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the group would ascend to worldwide fame during the 1960s. After the group disbanded in 1970, Lennon pursued a solo career and started the band Plastic Ono Band with his second wife Yoko Ono.

Paul McCartney English singer-songwriter and composer, bassist of The Beatles

Sir James Paul McCartney is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He gained worldwide fame as the bass guitarist and singer for the rock band the Beatles, widely considered the most popular and influential group in the history of popular music. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon remains the most successful in history. After the group disbanded in 1970, he pursued a solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda, and Denny Laine.

The Beatles left Rishikesh before the end of the course. Ringo Starr was the first to leave, less than two weeks later, as he said he could not stand the food; [15] McCartney departed in mid-March, [12] while Harrison and Lennon were more interested in Indian religion and remained until April. [12] According to the author Geoffrey Giuliano, Lennon left Rishikesh because he felt personally betrayed after hearing rumours that the Maharishi had behaved inappropriately towards women who accompanied the Beatles to India, [16] [17] though McCartney and Harrison later discovered this to be untrue [18] and Lennon's wife Cynthia reported there was "not a shred of evidence or justification". [19] [lower-alpha 2]

Ringo Starr British musician, drummer of the Beatles

Sir Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for the Beatles. He occasionally sang lead vocals, usually for one song on an album, including "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Yellow Submarine", "Good Night", and their cover of "Act Naturally". He also wrote the Beatles' songs "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden", and is credited as a co-writer of others, including "What Goes On" and "Flying".

Geoffrey Giuliano is an American author, radio personality, and film actor, best known for his biographies of the Beatles members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, and of musician Pete Townshend. He is also known for his involvement in the Mclibel case

Cynthia Lennon former wife of John Lennon

Cynthia Lillian Lennon was the first wife of English musician John Lennon and mother of Julian Lennon. She grew up in the middle-class section of Hoylake, on the Wirral Peninsula in North West England. At the age of 12, she was accepted into the Junior Art School, and was later enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art. John Lennon also attended the college; a meeting with Powell in a calligraphy class led to their relationship.

Collectively, the group wrote around 40 new compositions in Rishikesh, 26 of which would be recorded in very rough form at Kinfauns, Harrison's home in Esher, in May 1968. Lennon wrote the bulk of the new material, contributing 14 songs. [12] Lennon and McCartney brought home-recorded demos to the session, and worked on them together. Some home demos and group sessions at Kinfauns were later released on the 1996 compilation Anthology 3 , [20] and later on The Beatles' 50th anniversary edition.

Recording

The album was largely recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Abbey road studios.jpg
The album was largely recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

The Beatles was recorded between 30 May and 14 October 1968, largely at Abbey Road Studios in London, with some sessions at Trident Studios. [21] The group block-booked time at Abbey Road through to July, [22] and their times at Rishikesh were soon forgotten in the tense atmosphere of the studio, with sessions occurring at irregular hours. [23] The group's self-belief that they could do anything led to the formation of a new multimedia business corporation Apple Corps, an enterprise that drained the group financially with a series of unsuccessful projects. [24] The open-ended studio time led to a new way of working out songs. Instead of tightly rehearsing a backing track, as had happened in previous sessions, the group would simply record all the rehearsals and jamming, then add overdubs to the best take. Harrison's song "Not Guilty" was left off the album despite recording 102 takes. [25]

The sessions for The Beatles marked the first appearance in the studio of Lennon's new domestic and artistic partner, Yoko Ono, who accompanied him to Abbey Road to work on "Revolution 1" [26] and who would thereafter be a more or less constant presence at all Beatles sessions. [27] Ono's presence was highly unorthodox, as prior to that point, the Beatles had generally worked in isolation, rarely inviting wives and girlfriends to recording sessions. [28] McCartney's girlfriend at the time, Francie Schwartz, was also present at some sessions, [29] as were the other two Beatles' wives, Pattie Harrison and Maureen Starkey. [30]

During the sessions, the band upgraded from 4-track recording to 8-track. As work began, Abbey Road Studios possessed, but had yet to install, an 8-track machine that had supposedly been sitting in a storage room for several months. This was in accordance with EMI's policy of testing and customising new gear extensively before putting it into use in the studios. The Beatles recorded "Hey Jude" and "Dear Prudence" at Trident because it had an 8-track console. [31] When they learned that EMI also had one, they insisted on using it, and engineers Ken Scott and Dave Harries took the machine (without authorisation from the studio chiefs) into Abbey Road Studio 2 for the band's use. [32]

The author Mark Lewisohn reports that the Beatles held their first and only 24-hour session at Abbey Road near the end of the sessions for The Beatles, which occurred during the final mixing and sequencing for the album. This session was attended by Lennon, McCartney and producer George Martin. Unlike most LPs, there was no customary three-second gap between tracks, and the master was edited so that songs segued together, via a straight edit, a crossfade, or an incidental piece of music. [33]

Personal issues

The new relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono caused undeniable tension in the studio with the other Beatles. John Lennon en zijn echtgenote Yoko Ono op huwelijksreis in Amsterdam. John Lenn, Bestanddeelnr 922-2305.jpg
The new relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono caused undeniable tension in the studio with the other Beatles.

The studio efforts on The Beatles captured the work of four increasingly individuated artists who frequently found themselves at odds. Lewisohn notes that several backing tracks do not feature the full group, and overdubs tended to be limited to whomever wrote the song. [35] Sometimes McCartney and Lennon would even record simultaneously in different studios, each using different engineers. [36] Late in the sessions, Martin, whose influence over the band had gradually waned, spontaneously left to go on holiday, leaving Chris Thomas in charge of production. [37] Lennon's devotion to Ono over the other Beatles, and the couple's increasing use of heroin, made working conditions difficult as he became prone to bouts of temper and lethargy. [38]

Recording engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked with the group since Revolver in 1966, had become disillusioned with the sessions. At one point, while recording "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", Emerick overheard Martin criticising McCartney's lead vocal performance, to which McCartney replied, "Well you come down and sing it". [39] On 16 July, Emerick announced that he was no longer willing to work with the group and immediately left the studio. [39]

Within the band, according to the author Peter Doggett, "the most essential line of communication ... between Lennon and McCartney" had been broken by Ono's presence on the first day of recording. [40] While echoing this view, Beatles biographer Philip Norman comments that, from the start, each of the group's two principal songwriters shared a mutual disregard for the other's new compositions: Lennon found McCartney's songs "cloyingly sweet and bland", while McCartney viewed Lennon's as "harsh, unmelodious and deliberately provocative". [41] In a move that Lewisohn highlights as unprecedented in the Beatles' recording career, Harrison and Starr chose to distance themselves part-way through the project, [35] flying to California on 7 June so that Harrison could film his scenes for the Ravi Shankar documentary Raga . [42] Lennon, McCartney and Harrison's involvement in individual musical projects outside the band during 1968 was further evidence of the group's fragmentation. [43] In Lennon's case, the album cover of his experimental collaboration with Ono, Two Virgins , featured the couple fully naked – a gesture that his bandmates found bewildering and unnecessary. [44]

On 20 August, Lennon and Starr, working on overdubs for "Yer Blues" in Studio 3, visited McCartney in Studio 2, where he was working on "Mother Nature's Son". The positive spirit of the session disappeared immediately, and the engineer Ken Scott later claimed: "you could cut the atmosphere with a knife". [36] On 22 August, during the session for "Back in the U.S.S.R.", Starr abruptly left the studio, [45] feeling that his role in the group was peripheral compared to the other members, and was upset at McCartney's constant criticism of his drumming on the track. [46] [47] Abbey Road staff later commented that Starr was usually the first to arrive at the studio and sat waiting in the reception area for the others to turn up. [48] In his absence, McCartney played the drums on "Dear Prudence". For "Back in the U.S.S.R.", the three remaining Beatles each made contributions on bass and drums, with the drum part being a composite of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison's playing. [48]

Lennon, McCartney and Harrison pleaded with Starr to reconsider. He duly returned on 5 September to find his drum kit decorated with flowers, [49] a welcome-back gesture from Harrison. [50] McCartney described the sessions for The Beatles as a turning point for the group, saying "there was a lot of friction during that album. We were just about to break up, and that was tense in itself", [51] while Lennon later said "the break-up of the Beatles can be heard on that album". [52] Of the album's 30 tracks, only 16 have all four band members performing. [lower-alpha 3]

Songs

The Beatles contains a wide range of musical styles, which the authors Barry Miles and Gillian Gaar each view as the most diverse of any of the group's albums. [67] [68] These styles include rock and roll, blues, folk, country, reggae, avant-garde, [69] hard rock [70] and music hall. [71] The production aesthetic ensured that the album's sound was scaled-down and less reliant on studio innovation, relative to all the Beatles' releases since Revolver. [72] The author Nicholas Schaffner viewed this as reflective of a widespread departure from the LSD-inspired psychedelia of 1967, an approach that was initiated by Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys and similarly adopted in 1968 by artists such as the Rolling Stones and the Byrds. [73] Edwin Faust of Stylus Magazine described The Beatles as "foremost an album about musical purity (as the album cover and title suggest). Whereas on prior Beatles albums, the band was getting into the habit of mixing several musical genres into a single song, on The White Album every song is faithful to its selected genre. The rock n' roll tracks are purely rock n' roll; the folk songs are purely folk; the surreal pop numbers are purely surreal pop; and the experimental piece is purely experimental." [74]

The only western instrument available to the group during their Indian visit was the acoustic guitar, and thus many of the songs on The Beatles were written and first performed on that instrument. [75] Some of these songs remained acoustic on The Beatles and were recorded solo, or only by part of the group (including "Wild Honey Pie", [76] "Blackbird", [77] "Julia", [78] "I Will" [79] and "Mother Nature's Son" [80] ).

Side one

McCartney wrote "Back in the U.S.S.R." as a parody of Chuck Berry's song "Back in the U.S.A." [76] and the Beach Boys. [81] [82] A field recording of a jet aeroplane taking off and landing was used at the start of the track, and intermittently throughout it. [48] The backing vocals were sung by Lennon and Harrison in the style of the Beach Boys, [48] further to Mike Love's suggestion in Rishikesh that McCartney include mention of the "girls" in the USSR. [81] The track became widely bootlegged in the Soviet Union, where the Beatles' music was banned, and became an underground hit. [76] [lower-alpha 4]

"Dear Prudence" was one of the songs recorded at Trident. The style is typical of the acoustic songs written in Rishikesh, using guitar arpeggios. Lennon wrote the track about Mia Farrow's sister Prudence Farrow, who rarely left her room during the stay in commitment to the meditation. [84]

"Glass Onion" was the first backing track recorded as a full band since Starr's brief departure. MacDonald claimed Lennon deliberately wrote the lyrics to mock fans who claimed to find "hidden messages" in songs, and referenced other songs in the Beatles catalogue – "The Walrus was Paul" refers back to "I Am the Walrus" (which itself refers to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"). [85] McCartney, in turn, overdubbed a recorder part after the line "I told you about the Fool on the Hill", as a deliberate parody of the earlier song. [86] A string section was added to the track in October. [86]

Lennon went straight to the piano and smashed the keys with an almighty amount of volume, twice the speed of how they'd done it before, and said "This is it! Come on!"

Recording engineer Richard Lush on the final take of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" [87]

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was written by McCartney as a pastiche of ska music. The track took a surprising amount of time to complete, with McCartney demanding perfectionism that annoyed his colleagues. [54] Jimmy Scott, a friend of McCartney, suggested the title and played bongos on the initial take. He demanded a cut of publishing when the song was released, but the song was credited to "Lennon–McCartney". [88] After working for three days on the backing track, the work was scrapped and replaced with a new recording. [87] Lennon hated the song, calling it "granny music shit", [89] while engineer Richard Lush recalled that Starr disliked having to record the same backing track repetitively, and pinpoints this session as a key indication that the Beatles were going to break up. [87] McCartney attempted to remake the backing track for a third time, but this was abandoned after a few takes and the second version was used as the final mix. [87] The group, save for McCartney, had lost interest in the track by the end of recording, and refused to release it as a single. Marmalade recorded a version that became a number one hit.

McCartney recorded "Wild Honey Pie" on 20 August at the end of the session for "Mother Nature's Son". It is typical of the brief snippets of songs he recorded between takes during the album sessions. [76]

"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" was written by Lennon after an American visitor to Rishikesh left for a few weeks to hunt tigers. [66] It was recorded as an audio vérité exercise, featuring vocal performances from almost everyone who happened to be in the studio at the time. Ono sings one line and co-sings another, while Chris Thomas played the mellotron, including improvisations at the end of the track. [90] The opening flamenco guitar flourish was a recording included in the Mellotron's standard tape library. [91]

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was written by Harrison during a visit he made to his parents' home in Cheshire. [92] He first recorded the song as a solo performance, on acoustic guitar, on 25 July – a version that remained unreleased until Anthology 3. [58] He was unhappy with the group's first attempt to record the track, and so invited his friend Eric Clapton to come and play on it. Clapton was unsure about guesting on a Beatles record, but Harrison said the decision was "nothing to do with them. It's my song." [93] Clapton's solo was treated with automatic double tracking to attain the desired effect; he gave Harrison the guitar he used, which Harrison later named "Lucy". [94] [lower-alpha 5]

"Happiness Is a Warm Gun" evolved out of song fragments that Lennon wrote in Rishikesh. According to MacDonald, this working method was inspired by the Incredible String Band's songwriting. [62] The basic backing track ran to 95 takes, due to the irregular time signatures and variations in style throughout the song. The final version consisted of the best half of two takes edited together. [96] Lennon later described the song as one of his favourites, [97] while the rest of the band found the recording rejuvenating, as it forced them to re-hone their skills as a group playing together to get it right. [98] Apple's press officer Derek Taylor made an uncredited contribution to the song's lyrics. [99]

Side two

McCartney got the title of "Martha My Dear" from his sheepdog, but the lyrics are otherwise unrelated. [100] The entire track is played by him backed with session musicians, and features no other Beatles. Martin composed a brass band arrangement for the track. [101]

"I'm So Tired" was written in India when Lennon was having difficulty sleeping. [65] It was recorded at the same session as "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill". [90] The lyrics make reference to Walter Raleigh, calling him a "stupid git" for introducing tobacco to Europe; [lower-alpha 6] while the track ends with Lennon mumbling "Monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?" [90] This became part of the Paul is Dead conspiracy theory, when fans claimed that when the track was reversed, they could hear "Paul is dead man, miss him miss him". [49]

"Blackbird" features McCartney solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. According to Lewisohn, the ticking in the background is a metronome, [35] although Emerick recalls capturing the sound via a microphone placed beside McCartney's shoes. [103] The birdsong on the track was taken from the Abbey Road sound effects collection, and was recorded on one of the first EMI portable tape recorders. [35]

Harrison wrote "Piggies" as an attack on greed and materialism in modern society. [104] His mother and Lennon helped him complete the lyrics. [105] Thomas played harpsichord on the track, while Lennon supplied a tape loop of pigs grunting. [106]

"Rocky Raccoon" evolved from a jam session with McCartney, Lennon and Donovan in Rishikesh. The song was taped in a single session, and was one of the tracks that Martin felt was "filler" and only put on because the album was a double. [60]

"Don't Pass Me By" was Starr's first solo composition for the band; [107] he had been toying with the idea of writing a self-reflective song for some time, possibly as far back as 1963. [108] It went by the working titles of "Ringo's Tune" and "This Is Some Friendly". The basic track consisted of Starr drumming while McCartney played piano. [109] Martin composed an orchestral introduction to the song but it was rejected as being "too bizarre" and left off the album. [107] Instead, Jack Fallon played a bluegrass fiddle part. [110]

"Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" was written by McCartney in India after he saw two monkeys copulating in the street and wondered why humans were too civilised to do the same. [111] He played all the instruments except drums, which were contributed by Starr. The simple lyric was very much in Lennon's style, and Lennon was annoyed about not being asked to play on it. McCartney suggested it was "tit for tat" as he had not contributed to "Revolution 9". [112]

"I Will" was written and sung by McCartney, with Lennon and Starr accompanying on percussion. [79] In between numerous takes, the three Beatles broke off to busk some other songs. A snippet of a track known as "Can You Take Me Back?" was put between "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9", [86] while recordings of Cilla Black's hit "Step Inside Love" and a joke number, "Los Paranoias", were released on Anthology 3. [113]

"Julia" was the last track to be recorded for the album and features Lennon on solo acoustic guitar which he played in a style similar to McCartney's on "Blackbird". [78] This is the only Beatles song on which Lennon performs alone [114] and it was a tribute to his mother Julia Lennon, who was killed in 1958 in a road accident while Lennon was only seventeen, and the lyrics deal with the loss of his mother and his relationship with Ono, the "ocean child" referred to in the lyrics. [78] Ono helped with the lyrics, but the song was still credited to Lennon-McCartney as expected. [115]

Side three

According to McCartney, the authorship of "Birthday" was "50–50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all on the same evening". [116] He and Lennon were inspired to write the song after seeing the first UK showing of the rock 'n' roll film The Girl Can't Help It on television, and sang the lead vocal in the style of the film's musical star, Little Richard. [61] After the Beatles had taped the track, Ono and Pattie Harrison added backing vocals. [96]

"Yer Blues" was written by Lennon in India. Despite meditating and the tranquil atmosphere, he still felt unhappy, which was reflected in the lyrics. [117] The style was influenced by the British Blues Boom of 1968, which included groups such as Fleetwood Mac, Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jeff Beck and Chicken Shack. [59] The backing track was recorded in a small room next to the Studio 2 control room at Abbey Road. Unusually for a Beatles recording, the four-track source tape was edited directly, resulting in an abrupt cut-off at 3'17" into the start of another take (which ran into the fade out). [118] [lower-alpha 7]

"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" and "Sexy Sadie" were both written in reference to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi Huntsville Jan 1978A.JPG
"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" and "Sexy Sadie" were both written in reference to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

McCartney wrote "Mother Nature's Son" in India, and worked on it in isolation from the other members of the band. He performed the track solo alongside a Martin-scored brass arrangement. [80]

"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" evolved from a jam session and was originally untitled. The final mix was sped up by mixing the tape running at 43 hertz instead of the usual 50. [25] Harrison claimed the title came from one of the Maharishi's sayings (with "and my monkey" added later). [53]

"Sexy Sadie" was written as "Maharishi" by Lennon, shortly after he decided to leave Rishikesh. [57] In a 1980 interview, Lennon acknowledged that the Maharishi was the inspiration for the song: "I just called him 'Sexy Sadie'." [119]

"Helter Skelter" was written by McCartney and was initially recorded in July as a blues number. The initial takes were performed by the band live and included long passages during which they jammed on their instruments. [39] Because these takes were too long to practically fit on an LP, the song was shelved until September, when a new, shorter, version was made. By all accounts, the session was chaotic, but nobody dared suggest to any of the Beatles that they were out of control. Harrison reportedly ran around the studio while holding a flaming ashtray above his head, "doing an Arthur Brown". [120] The stereo version of the LP includes almost an extra minute of music compared to the mono, which culminates in Starr famously shouting "I've got blisters on my fingers!" [120] Charles Manson was unaware that helter skelter is the British name for a spiral slide found on a playground or funfair, and he assumed the track had something to do with hell. This was one of the key tracks that led Manson to believe the album had coded messages referring to apocalyptic war, and led to his movement of the same name. [57]

The final song on side three is Harrison's "Long, Long, Long", part of the chord progression for which he took from Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". [121] MacDonald describes the song as Harrison's "touching token of exhausted, relieved reconciliation with God" and considered it to be his "finest moment on The Beatles". [65] The recording session for the basic track was one of the longest the Beatles ever undertook, running from the afternoon of 7 October through the night until 7 am the next day. McCartney played Hammond organ on the track, and an "eerie rattling" effect at the end was created by a note causing a wine bottle on top of the organ's Leslie speaker to resonate. [65] [122]

Side four

"Revolution 1" was the first track recorded for the album, with sessions for the backing track starting on 30 May. [24] The initial takes were recorded with the aim of it being a possible single, but as the session progressed, the arrangement became slower, with more of a laid-back groove. The group ended the chosen take with a six-minute improvisation that had further overdubs added, before being cut to the length heard on the album. The brass arrangement was added later. [123]

"Honey Pie" was written by McCartney as a pastiche of the flapper dance style from the 1920s. The opening section of the track had the sound of an old 78 RPM record overdubbed [124] while Martin arranged a saxophone and clarinet part in the same style. Lennon played the guitar solo on the track, but later said he hated the song, calling it "beyond redemption". [64]

"Savoy Truffle" was named after one of the types of chocolate found in a box of Mackintosh's Good News, which Clapton enjoyed eating. The track featured a saxophone sextet arranged by Thomas, who also played keyboards. [64] Harrison later said that Derek Taylor helped him finish the lyrics. [125]

Lennon began writing "Cry Baby Cry" in late 1967 and the lyrics were partly derived from a tagline for an old television commercial. Martin played harmonium on the track. [55]

"Revolution 9" evolved from the overdubs from the "Revolution 1" coda. Lennon, Harrison and Ono added further tape collages and spoken word extracts, in the style of Karlheinz Stockhausen. The track opens with an extract from a Royal Schools of Music examination tape, and ends with Ono's infamous comment, "you become naked". [126] Ono was heavily involved in the production, and advised Lennon on what tape loops to use. [127] McCartney did not contribute to the track, and was reportedly unhappy on it being included, though he had led similar tape experiments such as "Carnival of Light" in January 1967. [128] The track has attracted both interest and disapproval from fans and music critics over the years. [129]

"Good Night" was a lullaby written by Lennon for his son Julian, and he specifically wanted Starr to sing it. The early takes featured just Lennon on acoustic guitar and Starr singing. [25] Martin scored an orchestral and choral arrangement that replaced the guitar in the final mix, and also played the celesta. [54]

Singles

"Hey Jude" was recorded at the end of July 1968 during the sessions for The Beatles but was issued separately as a single nearly three months before the album's release. [130] (It would, however, make its LP debut in the US two years later as the title cut of the compilation album Hey Jude .) The B-side, "Revolution", was a different version of the album's "Revolution 1". Lennon had wanted the original version of "Revolution" to be released as a single, but the other three Beatles objected on the grounds that it was too slow. Instead, the single featured a new, faster version, with heavily distorted guitar and an electric piano solo from Nicky Hopkins. [88] This was the first release on Apple Records and went on to be the band's most successful single, with world sales of over 5 million by the end of 1968 and 7.5 million by October 1972. [131]

The convention in the British music industry at the time was that singles and albums were distinct entities and should not duplicate songs. [132] [lower-alpha 8] However, though no singles were taken from The Beatles in either Britain or America, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" backed with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was released in other markets. The single was a commercial success in countries such as Australia (where it spent five weeks at number one on the Go-Set chart), [133] Japan, [134] Austria [135] and Switzerland. [136]

Unreleased material

Some songs that the Beatles were working on individually during this period were revisited for inclusion on the group's subsequent albums, while others were eventually released on the band members' solo albums. According to the bootlegged album of the demos made at Kinfauns, the latter of these two categories includes Lennon's "Look at Me" [137] and "Child of Nature" (eventually reworked as "Jealous Guy"); [138] McCartney's "Junk"; [138] and Harrison's "Not Guilty" and "Circles". [138] In addition, Harrison gave "Sour Milk Sea" to the singer Jackie Lomax, whose recording, produced by Harrison, was released in August 1968 as Lomax's debut single on Apple Records. [139] Lennon's "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam" would be used for the medley on Abbey Road the following year. [33]

The Lennon-written "What's the New Mary Jane" was demoed at Kinfauns [140] and recorded formally (by Lennon, Harrison and Ono) during the 1968 album sessions. [60] McCartney taped demos of two compositions at Abbey Road – "Etcetera" [36] and "The Long and Winding Road" – the last of which the Beatles recorded in 1969 for their album Let It Be . [141] The Beatles versions of "Not Guilty" and "What's the New Mary Jane", and a demo of "Junk", were ultimately released on Anthology 3. [142]

"Revolution (Take 20)", a previously uncirculated recording, surfaced in 2009 on a bootleg. This ten-minute take was later edited and overdubbed to create two separate tracks: "Revolution 1" and the avant-garde "Revolution 9". [143]

Release

The Beatles was issued on 22 November 1968 in Britain, [144] with a US release following three days later. [145] The album's working title, A Doll's House, had been changed when the English progressive rock band Family released the similarly titled Music in a Doll's House earlier that year. [115] Schaffner wrote in 1977 of the name that was adopted for the Beatles' double album: "From the day of release, everybody referred to The Beatles as 'the White Album.'" [146]

"It was great. It sold. It's the bloody Beatles' White Album. Shut up!"

Paul McCartney, disputing suggestions that The Beatles should have been a single album [147]

The Beatles was the third album to be released by Apple Records, following Harrison's Wonderwall Music , and Lennon’s Two Virgins . [148] Martin has said that he was against the idea of a double album at the time and suggested to the group that they reduce the number of songs to form a single album featuring their stronger work, but that the band decided against this. [144] Interviewed for the Beatles Anthology television series in the 1990s, Starr said that he now felt that it should have been released as two separate albums (that he nicknamed "The White Album" and "The Whiter Album"). [147] Harrison felt on reflection that some tracks could have been released as B-sides, but "there was a lot of ego in that band." [147] He also supported the idea of the double album, to clear out the backlog of songs that the group had at the time. By contrast, McCartney said that it was fine as it was, adding: "It's the bloody Beatles' White Album. Shut up!" [147]

Mono version

The Beatles was the last Beatles album to be mixed separately for both stereo and mono, [149] though the mono version was issued only in the UK and a few other countries. All but one track exist in official mono mixes; the exception is "Revolution 9", which was a direct reduction of the stereo master. [36] The Beatles had not been particularly interested in stereo until this album, but after receiving mail from fans stating they bought both stereo and mono mixes of earlier albums, they decided to make the two different. [150] Several mixes have different track lengths; the mono mix/edit of "Helter Skelter" eliminates the fade-in at the end of the song (and Starr's ending scream), [120] and the fade out of "Yer Blues" is 11 seconds longer on the mono mix. [151]

In the US, mono records were already being phased out; the US release of The Beatles was the first Beatles LP to be issued in stereo only. [152] In the UK, the following album, Yellow Submarine , was the last to be shipped in mono. [153] The mono version of The Beatles was made available worldwide on 9 September 2009, as part of The Beatles in Mono CD boxed set. [154] A reissue of the original mono LP was released worldwide in September 2014. [155]

Packaging

The album's sleeve was designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton, [144] in collaboration with McCartney. [156] Hamilton's design was in stark contrast to Peter Blake's vivid cover art for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and consisted of a plain white sleeve. The band's name, in Helvetica, [157] was crookedly blind embossed slightly below the middle of the album's right side, [158] and the cover also featured a unique stamped serial number, "to create", in Hamilton's words, "the ironic situation of a numbered edition of something like five million copies". [159] In 2008, an original pressing of the album with serial number 0000005 sold for £19,201 on eBay. [160] In 2015, Ringo Starr's personal copy number 0000001 sold for a world record $790,000 at auction. [161]

Later vinyl record releases in the US showed the title in grey printed (rather than embossed) letters. The album included a poster comprising a montage of photographs, with the lyrics of the songs on the back, and a set of four photographic portraits taken by John Kelly [162] during the autumn of 1968 that have themselves become iconic. The photographs for the poster were assembled by Hamilton and McCartney, and sorted them in a variety of ways over several days before arriving at the final result. [163]

Tape versions of the album did not feature a white cover or the numbering system. Instead, cassette and 8-track versions (issued on two cassettes/cartridges in early 1969) contained cover artwork that featured high contrast black and white (with no grey) versions of the four Kelly photographs. These two-tape releases were both contained in black outer cardboard slipcase covers embossed with the words The Beatles and the outline of an apple in gold print. [164] The songs on the cassette version of The Beatles [165] are sequenced differently from the album, in order to equalize the lengths of the tape sides. [166] Two reel-to-reel tape releases of the album were issued, both using the monochrome Kelly artwork. The first, issued by Apple/EMI in early 1969, [167] [168] packaged the entire double-LP on a single tape, with the songs in the same running order as on the LPs. The second release, licensed by Ampex from EMI in early 1970 after the latter ceased manufacture of commercial reel-to-reel tapes, was issued as two separate volumes, [169] [170] and sequenced the songs in the same manner as on the cassette version. The Ampex reel tape version of The Beatles has become desirable to collectors, as it contains edits on eight tracks not available elsewhere. [lower-alpha 9]

A painting of the band by John Byrne was at an earlier point under consideration to be used as the album's cover. The piece was later used for the sleeve of the compilation album The Beatles' Ballads , released in 1980. In 2012 the original artwork was put up for auction. [172]

Reissues

During 1978 and 1979, for the album's tenth anniversary, EMI reissued the album pressed on limited edition white vinyl in several countries. [173] [174] In 1981, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) issued a unique half-speed master variation of the album using the sound from the original master recording. The discs were pressed on high-quality virgin vinyl. [175]

The Beatles (White Album) Remaster [Super Deluxe] The beatles white album 2018 remaster.jpg
The Beatles (White Album) Remaster [Super Deluxe]

The album was reissued, along with the rest of the Beatles catalogue, on compact disc in 1987. [176] It was the only CD in the Beatles' catalogue to be issued in white jewel cases (as opposed to the usual black), and, like the original vinyl pressings, featured individually stamped numbers on the album's front cover (in this case on the cover of the booklet for the first disc). It was reissued again on CD in 1998 as part of a 30th anniversary series for EMI, featuring a scaled-down replication of the original artwork, including the top-loader gatefold sleeve. This was part of a reissue series from EMI that included albums from other artists such as the Rolling Stones and Roxy Music. [177] It was reissued again in 2009 in a new remastered edition. [178]

On 9 November 2018, remixed and expanded editions of The Beatles were released. These sets feature 50 previously unreleased recordings of songs from the album, in addition to the Esher demos recorded at Harrison's house. [179] The four editions are: a three-CD deluxe set, containing the original double album and one CD of Esher demos; a seven-disc super deluxe edition, which adds three CDs of outtakes and a Blu-ray disc; a two-LP edition, comprising the original release; and a four-LP edition, two discs of which contain Esher demos. [180] Following the announcement of these editions in September, a preview containing three versions of "Back in the U.S.S.R." was released on Spotify [181] and iTunes. [182]

Critical reception

Contemporary reviews

On release, The Beatles gained highly favourable reviews from the majority of music critics. [183] [184] [185] Others bemoaned its length or found that the music lacked the adventurous quality that had distinguished Sgt. Pepper. [183] According to the author Ian Inglis: "Whether positive or negative, all assessments of The Beatles drew attention to its fragmentary style. However, while some complained about the lack of a coherent style, others recognized this as the album's raison d'être." [43]

In The Observer , Tony Palmer wrote that "if there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest songwriters since Schubert", the album "should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making". [186] Richard Goldstein of The New York Times considered the double album to be "a major success" and "far more imaginative" than Sgt. Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour, [183] due to the band's improved songwriting and their relying less on the studio tricks of those earlier works. [187] In The Sunday Times , Derek Jewell hailed it as "the best thing in pop since Sgt. Pepper" and concluded: "Musically, there is beauty, horror, surprise, chaos, order. And that is the world; and that is what The Beatles are on about. Created by, creating for, their age." [188] Although he dismissed "Revolution 9" as a "pretentious" example of "idiot immaturity", the NME 's Alan Smith declared "God Bless You, Beatles!" to the majority of the album. [189] Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone called it "the history and synthesis of Western music", [146] and the group's best album yet. [190] Wenner contended that they were allowed to appropriate other styles and traditions into rock music because their ability and identity were "so strong that they make it uniquely theirs, and uniquely the Beatles. They are so good that they not only expand the idiom, but they are also able to penetrate it and take it further." [190]

Among the less favourable critiques, Time magazine's reviewer wrote that The Beatles showcased the "best abilities and worst tendencies" of the Beatles, as it is skilfully performed and sophisticated, but lacks a "sense of taste and purpose". [191] William Mann of The Times opined that, in their over-reliance on pastiche and "private jokes", Lennon and McCartney had ceased to progress as songwriters, yet he deemed the release to be "The most important musical event of the year" and acknowledged: "these 30 tracks contain plenty to be studied, enjoyed and gradually appreciated more fully in the coming months." [188] In his review for The New York Times, Nik Cohn considered the album "boring beyond belief" and said that over half of its songs were "profound mediocrities". [192] In a 1971 column, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice described the album as both "their most consistent and probably their worst", and referred to its songs as a "pastiche of musical exercises". [193] Nonetheless, he ranked it as the tenth best album of 1968 in his ballot for Jazz & Pop magazine's annual critics poll. [194]

Retrospective assessments

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [129]
The A.V. Club A+ [195]
The Daily Telegraph Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [196]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [197]
MusicHound 4/5 [198]
Pitchfork Media 10/10 [199]
PopMatters Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [200]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [201]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [202]
Slant Magazine Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [203]

In a 2003 appraisal of the album, for Mojo magazine, Ian MacDonald wrote that The Beatles regularly appears among the top 10 in critics' "best albums of all time" lists, yet it was a work that he deemed "eccentric, highly diverse, and very variable [in] quality". [204] Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), said that its songs ranged from the Beatles' "sturdiest tunes since Revolver" to "self-indulgent filler". He derided tracks including "Revolution 9" and "Helter Skelter", but said that picking personal highlights was "part of the fun" for listeners. [205] Writing for MusicHound in 1999, Guitar World editor Christopher Scapelliti described the album as "self-indulgent and at times unlistenable" but identified "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and "Helter Skelter" as "fascinating standouts" that made it a worthwhile purchase. [198]

According to Slant Magazine 's Eric Henderson, The Beatles is a rarity among the band's recorded works, in that it "resists reflexive canonisation, which, along with society's continued fragmentation, keeps the album fresh and surprising". [203] In his review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that because of its wide variety of musical styles, the album can be "a frustratingly scattershot record or a singularly gripping musical experience, depending on your view". He concludes: "None of it sounds like it was meant to share album space together, but somehow The Beatles creates its own style and sound through its mess." [129]

Among reviews of the 2009 remastered album, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph found that even its worst songs work within the context of such an eclectic and unconventional collection, which he rated "one of the greatest albums ever made". [196] Writing for Paste , Mark Kemp said The Beatles had been wrongly described as "three solo works in one (plus a Ringo song)", saying it "benefits from each member's wildly different ideas" and offers "two of Harrison's finest moments". [206] In his review for The A.V. Club , Chuck Klosterman wrote that the album found the band at their best and rated it "almost beyond an A+". [195]

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked The Beatles at number 10 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. [207] On the 40th anniversary of the album's release, Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano wrote that it "remains a type of magical musical anthology: 30 songs you can go through and listen to at will, certain of finding some pearls that even today remain unparalleled". [208] In 2011, Kerrang! placed the album at number 49 on a list of "The 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time". The magazine praised the guitar work in "Helter Skelter". [209] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die . [210]

Cultural responses

According to MacDonald, the counterculture of the 1960s analysed The Beatles above and beyond all of the band's previous releases. [49] The album's lyrics progressed from being vague to open-ended and prone to misinterpretation, such as "Glass Onion" (e.g., "the walrus was Paul") [85] and "Piggies" ("what they need's a damn good whacking"). [105] The release also coincided with public condemnation of Lennon's treatment of Cynthia, and of his and Ono's joint projects, particularly Two Virgins. [211] [212] The British authorities similarly displayed a less tolerant attitude towards the Beatles, [213] when London Drug Squad officers arrested Lennon and Ono in October 1968 for marijuana possession, a charge that he claimed was false. [214] In the case of "Back in the U.S.S.R.", the words were interpreted by Christian evangelist David Noebel as further proof of the Beatles' compliance in a Communist plot to brainwash American youth. [215]

Lennon's lyrics on "Revolution 1" were misinterpreted with messages he did not intend. In the album version, he advises those who "talk about destruction" to "count me out". Lennon then follows the sung word "out" with the spoken word "in". At the time of the album's release – which followed, chronologically, the up-tempo single version of the song, "Revolution" – that single word "in" was taken by the radical political left as Lennon's endorsement of politically motivated violence, which followed the May 1968 Paris riots. [216] However, the album version was recorded first. [lower-alpha 10]

Further to the betrayal they had felt at Lennon's non-activist stance in "Revolution", New Left commentators condemned The Beatles for its failure to offer a political agenda. [217] The Beatles themselves were accused of using eclecticism and pastiche as a means of avoiding important issues in the turbulent political and social climate. [217] Jon Landau, writing for the Liberation News Service, argued that, particularly in "Piggies" and "Rocky Racoon", the band had adopted parody because they were "afraid of confronting reality" and "the urgencies of the moment". [218] Like Landau, many writers among the New Left considered the album outdated and irrelevant; instead, they heralded the Rolling Stones' concurrent release, Beggars Banquet , as what Lennon biographer Jon Wiener terms "the 'strong solution,' a musical turning outward, toward the political and social battles of the day". [219]

Charles Manson first heard the album not long after it was released. He had already claimed to find hidden meanings in songs from earlier Beatles albums, [220] but in The Beatles he interpreted prophetic significance in several of the songs, including "Blackbird", "Piggies" (particularly the line "what they need's a damn good whacking"), "Helter Skelter", "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9", [221] and interpreted the lyrics as a sign of imminent violence or war. [205] He played the album repeatedly to his followers, the Manson family, and convinced them that it was an apocalyptic message predicting an uprising of oppressed races, [222] drawing parallels with chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation. [223]

Sociologists Michael Katovich and Wesley Longhofer write that the album's release created "a collective appreciation of it as a 'state-of-the-art' rendition of the current pop, rock, and folk-rock sounds". [224] The majority of music critics [lower-alpha 11] categorize The Beatles as postmodern, emphasizing aesthetic and stylistic features of the album. [lower-alpha 12] Other scholars [lower-alpha 13] situate all Beatles' work within a modernist stance, based either on their "artificiality" [226] or their ideological stance of progress through love and peace. [227] Scapelliti cites it as the source of "the freeform nihilism echoed … in the punk and alternative music genres". [198]

In early 2013, the Recess Gallery in New York City's SoHo neighbourhood presented We Buy White Albums, an installation by artist Rutherford Chang. The piece was in the form of a record store in which nothing but original pressings of the LP was on display. [228] Chang created a recording in which the sounds of one hundred copies of side one of the LP were overlaid. [229]

Commercial performance

As it was their first studio album in almost eighteen months (and coming after the success of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) expectations were high at the time of the release of The Beatles. The album debuted at number 1 in the UK on 7 December 1968. [230] It spent seven weeks at the top of the UK charts (including the entire competitive Christmas season), [230] until it was replaced by the Seekers' Best of the Seekers on 25 January 1969, dropping to number 2. However, the album returned to the top spot the following week, spending an eighth and final week at number 1. [231] The album was still high in the charts when the Beatles' follow-up album, Yellow Submarine, was released, which reached number 3. In all, The Beatles spent 22 weeks on the UK charts, far fewer than the 149 weeks for Sgt. Pepper. [232] In September 2013 after the British Phonographic Industry changed their sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum, meaning sales of at least 300,000 copies. [233]

In the United States, the album achieved huge commercial success. Capitol Records sold over 3.3 million copies of The Beatles to stores within the first four days of the album's release. [234] It debuted at number 11 on 14 December 1968, [235] jumped to number 2, and reached number 1 in its third week on 28 December, [236] spending a total of nine weeks at the top. In all, The Beatles spent 186 weeks on the Billboard 200. [237] The album has sold over 9.5 million copies in the United States alone [238] and according to the Recording Industry Association of America, The Beatles is the Beatles' most-certified album, at 19-times platinum. [239]

Track listing

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted. Lead singer credits per Castleman and Podrazik's 1976 book All Together Now. [240]

Original release

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Back in the U.S.S.R."McCartney2:43
2."Dear Prudence"Lennon3:56
3."Glass Onion"Lennon2:18
4."Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"McCartney3:08
5."Wild Honey Pie"McCartney0:52
6."The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"Lennon, with Yoko Ono 3:14
7."While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison)Harrison4:45
8."Happiness Is a Warm Gun"Lennon2:47
Total length:23:43
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Martha My Dear"McCartney2:28
2."I'm So Tired"Lennon2:03
3."Blackbird"McCartney2:18
4."Piggies" (George Harrison)Harrison2:04
5."Rocky Raccoon"McCartney3:33
6."Don't Pass Me By" (Richard Starkey)Starr3:51
7."Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"McCartney1:41
8."I Will"McCartney1:46
9."Julia"Lennon2:57
Total length:22:41
Side three
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Birthday"McCartney with Lennon2:42
2."Yer Blues"Lennon4:01
3."Mother Nature's Son"McCartney2:48
4."Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"Lennon2:24
5."Sexy Sadie"Lennon3:15
6."Helter Skelter"McCartney4:30
7."Long, Long, Long" (George Harrison)Harrison3:08
Total length:22:48
Side four
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Revolution 1"Lennon4:15
2."Honey Pie"McCartney2:41
3."Savoy Truffle" (George Harrison)Harrison2:54
4."Cry Baby Cry"Lennon, with McCartney3:02
5."Revolution 9"Speaking from Lennon, Harrison, Ono and George Martin8:15
6."Good Night"Starr3:14
Total length:24:21

2018 50th Anniversary Box Set bonus tracks

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where otherwise indicated.

CD 3: Esher Demos
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Back in the U.S.S.R." 2:59
2."Dear Prudence" 4:47
3."Glass Onion" 1:55
4."Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" 3:10
5."The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" 2:40
6."While My Guitar Gently Weeps"George Harrison2:41
7."Happiness Is a Warm Gun" 1:55
8."I'm So Tired" 3:10
9."Blackbird" 2:34
10."Piggies"Harrison2:05
11."Rocky Raccoon" 2:44
12."Julia" 3:56
13."Yer Blues" 3:31
14."Mother Nature's Son" 2:24
15."Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" 3:03
16."Sexy Sadie" 2:26
17."Revolution" 4:06
18."Honey Pie" 1:59
19."Cry Baby Cry" 2:27
20."Sour Milk Sea"Harrison3:43
21."Junk"Paul McCartney2:36
22."Child of Nature"John Lennon2:37
23."Circles"Harrison2:16
24."Mean Mr. Mustard" 2:05
25."Polythene Pam" 1:26
26."Not Guilty"Harrison3:05
27."What's the New Mary Jane" 2:42
CD 4: Sessions
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Revolution 1" (take 18) 10:28
2."A Beginning" (take 4) / "Don't Pass Me By" (take 7) George Martin / Starkey5:05
3."Blackbird" (take 28) 2:15
4."Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (unnumbered rehearsal) 2:43
5."Good Night" (unnumbered rehearsal) 0:39
6."Good Night" (take 10 with a guitar part from take 5) 2:31
7."Good Night" (take 22) 3:46
8."Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (take 3) 2:54
9."Revolution" (unnumbered rehearsal) 2:16
10."Revolution" (take 14 / instrumental backing track) 3:25
11."Cry Baby Cry" (unnumbered rehearsal) 3:02
12."Helter Skelter" (first version / take 2) 12:53
CD 5: Sessions
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Sexy Sadie" (take 3) 3:08
2."While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (acoustic version / take 2) (Harrison) 3:02
3."Hey Jude" (take 1) 6:44
4."Saint Louis Blues" (studio jam) W. C. Handy 0:51
5."Not Guilty" (take 102)Harrison4:28
6."Mother Nature's Son" (take 15) 3:11
7."Yer Blues" (take 5 with guide vocal) 3:57
8."What's the New Mary Jane" (take 1) 2:06
9."Rocky Raccoon" (take 8) 4:57
10."Back in the U.S.S.R." 3:09
11."Dear Prudence" (vocal, guitar & drums) 3:59
12."Let It Be" (unnumbered rehearsal) 1:17
13."While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (third version / take 27)Harrison3:17
14."(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" (studio jam) Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller 0:42
15."Helter Skelter" (second version / take 17) 3:39
16."Glass Onion" (take 10) 2:12
CD 6: Sessions
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."I Will" (take 13) 2:20
2."Blue Moon" (studio jam) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart 1:11
3."I Will" (take 29) 0:26
4."Step Inside Love" (studio jam) 1:34
5."Los Paranoias" (studio jam)John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey3:58
6."Can You Take Me Back?" (take 1) 2:22
7."Birthday" (take 2 / instrumental backing track) 2:40
8."Piggies" (take 12 / instrumental backing track) (Harrison) 2:10
9."Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (take 19) 3:09
10."Honey Pie" (instrumental backing track) 2:43
11."Savoy Truffle" (instrumental backing track)Harrison2:56
12."Martha My Dear" (without brass & strings) 2:29
13."Long, Long, Long" (take 44)Harrison2:54
14."I'm So Tired" (take 7) 2:29
15."I'm So Tired" (take 14) 2:17
16."The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (take 2) 3:12
17."Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (take 5) 2:03
18."Julia" (two rehearsals) 4:31
19."The Inner Light" (take 6 / instrumental backing track)Harrison2:47
20."Lady Madonna" (take 2 / piano and drums) 2:25
21."Lady Madonna" (backing vocals from take 3) 0:54
22."Across the Universe" (take 6) 3:52
Disc 7: Blu-ray audio
No.TitleLength
1."The Beatles PCM Stereo (2018 Stereo Mix)"93:33
2."The Beatles DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (2018)"93:33
3."The Beatles Dolby True HD 5.1 (2018)"93:33
4."The Beatles Mono (2018 Direct Transfer of ‘The White Album’ Original Mono Mix)"93:33

Personnel

The Beatles

Guest musicians

Session musicians

Production

Charts

Weekly charts

Certifications

RegionCertification Certified units/Sales
Argentina (CAPIF) [298]
Listed as "Album Blanco"
Platinum60,000^
Argentina (CAPIF) [298]
Listed as "The White Album"
Gold30,000^
Australia (ARIA) [299] 2× Platinum140,000^
Canada (Music Canada) [300] 8× Platinum800,000^
Canada (Music Canada) [300]
2009 release
Gold40,000^
France (SNEP) [301] Gold257,600 [302]
Italy (FIMI) [303] Gold30,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ) [304] 2× Platinum30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI) [305] Platinum300,000^
United States (RIAA) [306] 19× Platinum9,500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Dagger-14-plain.png BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994. [307]

Release history

CountryDateLabelFormatCatalogue number
United Kingdom22 November 1968 Apple (Parlophone) LP PMC 7067/8 (mono) /PCS 7067/8 (stereo) [308]
United States25 November 1968Apple, Capitol LPSWBO-101 (stereo) [309]
Worldwide reissue24 August 1987Apple, EMI CDCDP 7 46443 8 [310]
United Kingdom23 November 1998 Apple CD (30th Anniversary numbered limited edition)4 96895 2 [311]
Japan21 January 2004Toshiba-EMI Remastered LPTOJP 60139/40 [312]
Worldwide reissue9 September 2009Apple Remastered CD3 82466 2 [313]
Worldwide reissue13 November 2012Apple Remastered LP3824661 [314]
Worldwide reissue9 September 2014AppleRemastered Mono LP734535 [155]
Worldwide reissue9 November 2018Apple, Universal Music Group InternationalRemixed 4xLP / 2xLP / 3xCD / 6xCD+Blu-ray box set6757201, 6769686, 6757133, 6757195 [315]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Beatles for Sale</i> 1964 studio album by the Beatles

Beatles for Sale is the fourth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 4 December 1964 in the United Kingdom on EMI's Parlophone label. Eight of the album's fourteen tracks appeared on Capitol Records' concurrent release, Beatles '65, issued in North America only. The album marked a departure from the upbeat tone that had characterised the Beatles' previous work, partly due to the band's exhaustion after a series of tours that had established them as a worldwide phenomenon in 1964. The songs introduced darker musical moods and more introspective lyrics, with John Lennon adopting an autobiographical perspective in compositions such as "I'm a Loser" and "No Reply". The album also reflected the twin influences of country music and Bob Dylan, whom the Beatles met in New York in August 1964.

Revolution (Beatles song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Revolution" is a song by the Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Three versions of the song were recorded in 1968, all during sessions for the Beatles' self-titled double album, commonly known as "the White Album": a slow, bluesy arrangement that would make the final cut for the LP; a more abstract musical collage that originated as the latter part of "Revolution 1" and appears on the same album; and the better-known, faster, hard rock version similar to "Revolution 1", released as the B-side of the "Hey Jude" single. Although the single version was issued first, it was recorded several weeks after "Revolution 1", as a re-make specifically intended for release as a single.

Love Me Do original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Love Me Do" is the debut single by the English rock band the Beatles, backed by "P.S. I Love You". When the single was originally released in the United Kingdom on 5 October 1962, it peaked at number 17. In 1982 it was re-promoted and reached number four; in the United States the single was a number one hit in 1964. In 2013, recordings of the song that were released in 1962 entered the public domain in Europe.

What Goes On (Beatles song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney-Starkey

"What Goes On" is a song by the Beatles, featured as the eighth track on their sixth British album Rubber Soul. The song was later released as the B-side of the US single "Nowhere Man", and then as the tenth track on the North America-only album Yesterday and Today. It is the only song by the band credited to Lennon–McCartney-Starkey.

Maxwells Silver Hammer original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1969 album Abbey Road. It was written by Paul McCartney, although credited to Lennon–McCartney. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is a pop song with dark, eccentric lyrics about a medical student named Maxwell Edison who commits murders with a hammer. The lyrics are disguised by the upbeat, catchy, and rather "childlike" sound of the song. The recording sessions for the track were an acrimonious time for the Beatles, as McCartney pressured his bandmates to work at length on the song. John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were vocal in their dislike of the song. Author Ian MacDonald began his description of the song by saying, "If any single recording shows why The Beatles broke up, it is 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer.'"

Thank You Girl original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Thank You Girl" is a song recorded by the Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Lennon–McCartney), and issued as the B-side of the single "From Me to You", which was recorded on the same day. While not released on an LP in the United Kingdom until Rarities in 1978, the song was the second track on The Beatles' Second Album in the United States. As the B-side of the single "Do You Want to Know a Secret", it hit No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1964.

You Never Give Me Your Money original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"You Never Give Me Your Money" is a song by the Beatles. It was written by Paul McCartney and documented the financial and personal difficulties facing the band. The song is the first part of the medley on side two of the 1969 album Abbey Road and was recorded in stages between May and August that year.

Carry That Weight original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

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Im So Tired original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"I'm So Tired" is a song by the Beatles from their double-disc album The Beatles. It was written and sung by John Lennon, though credited to Lennon–McCartney.

Your Mother Should Know original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Your Mother Should Know" is a song by the Beatles from their 1967 record Magical Mystery Tour, released in the US as an LP on 27 November 1967 and in the UK as a double-EP on 8 December 1967. It was written by Paul McCartney based on a line from the screenplay for A Taste of Honey.

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is a song written by Paul McCartney, and first recorded and released in 1967, on the album of the same name by the Beatles. The song appears twice on the album: as the opening track, and as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)", the penultimate track. As the title song, the lyrics introduce the fictional band that performs on the album.

Good Day Sunshine original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Good Day Sunshine" is a song by the Beatles on the 1966 album Revolver. It was written mainly by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Leonard Bernstein praised the song for its construction in a 1967 CBS News documentary. Richie Unterberger of AllMusic said the song "radiates optimism and good vibes" and Ian MacDonald said it is "superbly sung by McCartney and exquisitely produced by George Martin and his team" and that it shows the Beatles "at their effortless best."

No Reply (song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"No Reply" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1964 album Beatles for Sale. In North America, it was issued on Capitol Records' variant on the British release, Beatles '65. The song was written mainly by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon originally gave the song to another artist managed by Brian Epstein, Tommy Quickly, in June 1964, but Quickly decided not to use it. The Beatles recorded the track in London soon after returning from their first full tour of the United States. The lyrics typify Lennon's more introspective and mature songwriting on the Beatles for Sale album.

I Dont Want to Spoil the Party original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was released on the album Beatles for Sale in the United Kingdom in December 1964. "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" was also released on the Beatles for Sale EP.

I Should Have Known Better original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"I Should Have Known Better" is a song by English rock band the Beatles composed by John Lennon, and originally issued on A Hard Day's Night, their soundtrack for the film of the same name released on 10 July 1964. "I Should Have Known Better" was also issued as the B-side of the US single "A Hard Day's Night" released on 13 July. An orchestrated version of the song conducted by George Martin appears on the North American version of the album, A Hard Day's Night Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

All Ive Got to Do original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"All I've Got to Do" is a song written by John Lennon and performed by English rock group the Beatles on their second British album, With the Beatles. In the United States, "All I've Got to Do" originally appeared on Meet the Beatles!. According to Dennis Alstrand, this song is the first time in rock and roll or rock music where the bass player plays chords as a vital part of the song.

Misery (Beatles song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Misery" is a song performed by English rock band The Beatles on their album Please Please Me. It was co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. According to Lennon, "It was kind of a John song more than a Paul song, but it was written together." McCartney was to say: "I don't think either one of us dominated on that one, it was just a hacking job."

Dont Let Me Down (Beatles song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Don't Let Me Down" is a song by the Beatles, recorded in 1969 during the Let It Be sessions. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney.

That Means a Lot

"That Means a Lot" is a song written (mainly) by Paul McCartney, but credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was released in 1965 by P.J. Proby. Proby's version reached #24 on the NME chart. Prior to the release by Proby, the Beatles recorded a version that was intended for the Help! film and soundtrack album. The Beatles were dissatisfied with the song and their version was not released until the Anthology 2 CD in 1996.

References

Footnotes

  1. Early LP and CD releases include a unique serial number.
  2. Harrison later repaired his friendship with the Maharishi in the Natural Law Party [18]
  3. "Revolution 1", [23] "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey", [53] "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", [54] "Cry Baby Cry", [55] "Helter Skelter", [56] "Sexy Sadie", [57] "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", [58] "Yer Blues", [59] "Rocky Raccoon", [60] "Glass Onion", [49] "Birthday", [61] "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", [62] "Piggies", [63] "Honey Pie", [64] "I'm So Tired", [65] "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" [66]
  4. In 1987, McCartney recorded a covers album titled Снова в СССР – Russian for "Back in the U.S.S.R." [83]
  5. Harrison soon reciprocated by collaborating with Clapton on the song "Badge" for Cream's final studio album, Goodbye . Harrison, too, was not formally credited at first, but was identified as "L'Angelo Misterioso" on the cover. [95]
  6. This has since been misreported as "git" [102] but is written as "get" in the lyrics on the sleeve insert
  7. "Yer Blues" was one of the few late-period Beatles songs that Lennon performed live. Backed by Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell, he first played it on 11 December 1968 at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus ; a version recorded with the Plastic Ono Band in September 1969 appears on the live album Live Peace in Toronto . [59]
  8. In February 1967, the Beatles had been unhappy about having to accede to Capitol Records' demand for a new single, because the two tracks, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane", were therefore ineligible for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper. [132]
  9. "Dear Prudence", "Glass Onion", "Don't Pass Me By", "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?", "Yer Blues", "Helter Skelter", "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9". [171]
  10. Recording on "Revolution 1" began on 30 May, [23] "Revolution" on 9 July. [88]
  11. According to Womack, the list of critical works referring to the White Album as postmodernist includes Henry W. Sullivan's The Beatles with Lacan: Rock 'n' Roll as Requiem for the Modern Age (1995), Ed Whitley's The Postmodern White Album, (2000), David Quantick's Revolution: The Making of the Beatles' White Album (2002), Devin McKinney's Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History (2003), and Jeffrey Roessner's We All Want to Change the World: Postmodern Politics and the Beatles' White Album (2006).
  12. Inglis (2009), for example, lists bricolage, fragmentation, pastiche, parody, reflexivity, plurality, irony, exaggeration, anti-representation and "meta-art". [225]
  13. Including Fredric Jameson (1984), Andrew Goodwin (2006), and Kenneth Womack (2008)

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Further reading